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Martial Arts in Chapel Hill. Community-Minded, Family-Oriented, Behavior Based.

We Host Our Own Tournaments.


Aurelio and Douglass. Both Ligo Dojo black belts with over 400 classes each. Here they are 10 years old.

We host our own tournaments two times per year locally, and take kids and adults (those who choose to go) to out-of-state tournaments several times per year as well. We even have a long history of taking adult students overseas for international competition, but clearly there is the issue of cost, and it is likely that such opportunities would only be for the most motivated. One easy mistake that beginning students make is to watch an advanced-level tournament match and think, “Oh my gosh! I could never do that!” These two 10-year-olds (above) have attended over 400 classes at Ligo Dojo over a 3-year period, they’re black belts, and when they compete it looks nothing like it does when the novice students do.


Note the smiles on these six-year-olds’ faces. Our students, in small-steps, learn confidence at a level that the other schools can’t offer. Have no doubt that we are all about non-violance, yet since we offer authentic karate, unlike the other schools that are less physical, we actually provide it. Kids learn something REAL, and hence they learn an actually healthy level of respect for an activity that could actually hurt somebody if misused. Our kids become calm, confident, and non-violent.

Several of the photos on this page are of our own bi-annual practice-level tournament held twice a year in Chapel Hill/Durham. Unlike some of the ones we travel to, our tournaments (held in March and August) are “practice-level” tournaments meaning they are designed to accommodate the novice student as well as the advanced. More than that, though, they are also designed to accommodate the most timid of child (and adult) students that are inevitably part of any dojo. Nobody is labeled “timid” of course, but because we organize our own divisions of students of like size, ability and temperament, we are able to group the less-sure with other students who are less sure, and so everyone has a chance to succeed and become stronger, and more confident, as a result of their experience.  

Tournaments ARE important for learning karate, but beware! There is somewhat of an aversion to tournaments in the American karate-for-profit martial arts climate, and for good reason: Most tournaments in America for adults, but especially for kids, are really terrible. Ours aren’t however, and those that haven’t participated shouldn’t leap to judgement. 


Women in Kyokushin karate, as well, find a rare haven where they’re not treated as somehow less than the men. Of course women compete against women, and men against men, but the difference here is that there’s no such thing in our dojo as “girly” karate. You’d think this would be a no-brainer in this day in age, but you’d be surprised how many martial arts schools uphold a double standard, because they don’t know how to introduce men, women, and children to SAFE contact karate.

Kyokushin karate is a full-contact style meaning that kids (and adults), while learning they should never fight, actually do learn HOW to defend themselves in a “real,” and fairly physically intense, environment. Nathan Ligo, having set out years ago, to make contact karate an activity where kids SMILE while they do it, just like the karate he witnessed in Japan, was initially unsure about whether he’d be able to achieve the same level of happy, contact competition in the States. And yet it has become one of our greatest successes!

Kids don’t get hurt. They aren’t demoralized or humiliated. On the contrary they learn to handle themselves in a safe environment, and they also learn confidence on a level that the other area schools can’t match. How is this achieved? Through a tiered system of contact represented clearly by the work we do through our practice-level tournaments. The timid compete against the timid, the confident against the confident. When the timid become more confident – and they all do over time! – they start to mix with those who are more confident. Compare the top photo on this page to the one below it. Note the smiles on the faces of these six-year-olds! All students, child and adult, start with smiles. Before you know though, this melts into a gaze of intense concentration, strength and confidence, at least those times that they’re training. 


Tournaments ARE important, on two levels. First, this is how karate develops. There is no better way to test what you learn. If you learned something, but didn’t quite learn it right, you’ll realize that when you try to use it. Second, tournaments are important because of what it does to the character of the child or adult who participates. Karate students learn confidence! They learn that they don’t need to be afraid. They become the opposite of the child who is bullied in school, not because they become aggressive and “tough” but rather because they become confident and at-peace, and kids who used to attract the attention of bullies, wind up becoming the ones who the bullies let walk right on by.

Our kids are safe! Yet, they learn, through a fairly physically intense activity, a healthy level of respect for violence. They understand what it is because they engage in it without fear or anger with their friends in the dojo, and by doing so, they realize on a fundamental level that it’s something to be avoided in situations where aggression  and negative emotion (like anger) exists. Our kids get better grades, they succeed at more things, they are NOT violent. 


Every tournament match has a center referee and four corner judges. Rules (like no punching to the head) are designed to keep the competitors safe.



Ligo Dojo practice-level tournament.